“The Women of 1916” by Rita Ann Higgins

The Women of 1916

‘the state recognises that by her life within the home’
article 41.2.1. The Irish Constitution

Years before the offending article
was even conjured up by De Valera
and the very Reverend John Charles McQuaid
with the help of a pack of Jesuits –
the plan was set in train
to banish these biddies
back to their kitchen sinks.
The banishing tool of choice
was the airbrush.
The women of 1916
did not sit back
and wait in the wings of history
with tricolor dribblers to mop
the runny eggs
from the chins of the rebels.
These unmanageables,
were there from the start.
They could knit
a thirty two county Ireland
in plain and purl,
with their eyes closed
and never drop a stitch,
while rearing seven sons
and as many daughters.
The rifles they held
were not for showing
but for using.
The handgun could nestle on a hip
or be tucked into a petticoat.
Webley, Colt, Smith and Wesson.
Winnie (with the Webley) Carney
was one of the last people out of the GPO,
revelvor in one hand, typewriter in the other.
I write it out in a verse-
Lily O’ Brennan, Constance Markievicz,
Helena Moloney, Ellen’Nellie’ Gifford
May Moore , Rosie Hackett, Dr. Kathleen Lynn
Margaret Skinnider, Rose McNamara
Nell Ryan, Lizzie Mulhall, Kathleen’ Kitty’ Fleming…
Whenever green dresses are worn,
some tricolor dribblers spill scorn.
The Women of 1916 is © Rita Ann Higgins and was first broadcast on Arena (RTÉ)


Poet Rita Ann Higgins(1)Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway. She has published ten collections of poetry, her most recent being Ireland is Changing Mother, (Bloodaxe 2011), a memoir in prose and poetryHurting God (Salmon 2010). She is the author of six stage plays and one screen play. She has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, among others an honorary professorship. She is a member of Aosdána.

Rita Ann Higgins’s readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming. Her next collection Tongulish is due out in April 2016 from Bloodaxe.

The Mission by Rita Ann Higgins

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